Bandha is the Sanskrit word that means ‘to lock’ or ‘to obstruct.’ Yoga is quite famous for its postural exercises and meditation. Bandha is an energy lock that one can activate with a sequence of physical postures. Activated bandhas are supposed to temporarily restrict the energy flowing naturally through the body to a specific organ. Once the bandha is released, the energy flows through the body with greater efficacy. Yogic literature mentions that a prana is a form of vital energy flowing through the body that stimulates the functioning of all body systems. The Yogic bandhas control and regulate the flow of prana through each cell in the human body.
There are four bandhas in Yogic literature that you will learn in a Yoga class. Each bandha has a specific function and involves a sequential mode of activation.
Yoga classes often include practicing and activating the bandhas of the body. The experience is relaxing and recharges the mind and body. Little is known about the bandhas that immensely benefit our mental and physical health.
There are four major Yogic bandhas and two minor bandhas we can learn in a Yoga class. The three major bandhas are in three distinct anatomical locations within our body. The fourth major bandha results from the first three major bandhas together. Let us acquaint ourselves with the major Yoga bandhas, their health benefits, and the steps to activate them.
- Mula Bandha
Mula is the Sanskrit word that means ‘root.’ Here is how you can activate the Mula bandha.
- Sit in a chair, on your bed, or on the floor with adequate back support.
- The anal muscles and genital area are the areas of focus while practicing the Mula bandha.
- Take a deep breath in and slowly to a count of four to begin the Mula bandha.
- Now gradually clench the anal muscles and the genital area to a count of ten.
- Relax your pelvic muscles as you exhale and remain in the same seated position for some time.
- You may repeat the Mula bandha a few more times.
Women must focus on engaging their vaginal muscles, while men should engage their testicular region to activate the Mula bandha. Women may safely practice Mula bandha during their menstrual period. It is vital to avoid over-contracting the pelvic muscles while practicing the Mula bandha.
Benefits of Mula Bandha
- With the Mula bandha, women can soothe their sore legs and pelvis during the menstrual period.
- By reducing constipation, the Mula bandha improves digestion and also enhances metabolism.
- The Mula bandha is an excellent way of regulating blood pressure.
- Increase the flexibility of your pelvic floor muscles and make them more robust with regular practice of the Mula bandha.
- The Mula bandha helps to attain peace of mind and a sense of elevated self-confidence.
- Practicing the Mula bandha will strengthen your core muscles.
The Mula bandha may be performed on an empty stomach for best results. Day-to-day actions like riding a bicycle, lifting or moving heavy weights, climbing stairs, or walking up a steep path activate the Mula bandha.
2. Jalandhara Bandha
Jalandhara is a term made of two Sanskrit words, jal, which means ‘throat,’ and Dharan, which means ‘free flow.’ The Jalandhara bandha temporarily locks the free flow of energy through the throat and nourishes that area’s nerves and blood vessels. Listed below are the steps to activate the Jalandhara Bandha.
- Be seated in a comfortable position with adequate back support, and place your palms firmly on your knees.
- Inhale deeply such that there is still room for some more air.
- Hold your breath and bend your neck forward till your chin touches your throat.
- Curl your tongue upward so that it touches the roof of the mouth.
- Remain in this position for some time before you exhale and release the Jalandhara bandha.
- You may practice the Jalandhara bandha a few more times before relaxing your posture.
The Jalandhara bandha is often performed in combination with the Mula bandha or the Uddiyana bandha (described later in the article). The Jalandhara bandha is an integral part of various Yoga postures.
Benefits of Jalandhara Bandha
- The Jalandhara bandha stimulates the thyroid gland and balances the blood levels of its hormones.
- Regulate your metabolism by practicing the Jalandhara bandha.
- Facial sinuses respond very well to the Jalandhara bandha, which prevents allergic and chronic sinus disorders.
- The Jalandhara bandha improve lung functions by enhancing a person’s breath retention capacity.
- Blood pressure disorders may be treated by practicing the Jalandhara bandha regularly.
- The Jalandhara bandh improves the coordinated functioning of the various body systems.
3. Uddiyana Bandha
The word Uddiyana loosely translates to ‘taking flight.’ When you activate the Uddiyana bandha, your diaphragm temporarily elevates or takes flight from its original position.
- To perform the Uddiyana bandha, one must stand with some distance between both feet.
- Balance your body weight such that both feet bear it equally.
- Keep your hands on your hips or thighs and bend forward till your ribs protrude ahead of your abdomen.
- Move your chest as if taking a deep breath, but do not inhale any air.
- Throw your chest outward and suck in your belly as if it is being squeezed.
- Resume normal breathing and release the Uddiyana bandha slowly.
The Uddiyana bandha is more powerful and activates more energy than the Mula bandha. The Uddiyana bandha focuses on distributing the energy and strengthening the upper body.
Benefits of Uddiyana Bandha
- The Uddiyana bandha gently massages the abdominal muscles and digestive organs and improves their functions.
- The Uddiyana bandha strengthens the intestinal and diaphragm muscles.
- The cardiac tissue and blood vessels remain in good shape with regular practice of the Uddiyana bandha.
- The Uddiyana bandha maintains the structural and functional integrity of the solar plexus.
The Uddiyana bandha engages and strengthens the abdominal and chest muscles. It is advisable to practice the Uddiyana bandha on an empty stomach.
4. Maha Bandha
The Maha bandha is a combination of the Mula bandha, Uddiyana bandha, and the Jalandhara bandha. The word Maha means ‘great,’ and the Maha bandha is rightfully known as the ‘great lock.’ One needs to practice Maha bandha with utmost dedication and regularity to become an expert in it. The Maha bandha is very powerful and stimulates the flow of energy through the body.
- Seat yourself in a comfortable position on the ground or in a chair.
- If you are sitting on the floor, cross your legs, and place your palms on your knees.
- Keep your eyes lightly shut and take a single deep breath.
- Relax your mind and body entirely and focus all your energy on activating the Maha bandha.
- Exhale all the air in your lungs and elevate your shoulders simultaneously.
- Move your upper body forward without hunching your back and perform the Jalandhara bandh.
- Suck your abdomen in and elevate your chest as required to activate the Uddiyana bandha.
- Clench your pelvic and anal muscles gently to activate the Mula bandha.
Focus your energy on holding all the bandhas at one time. Keep the Maha bandha activated till you can control your breath. Release the Mula bandha first, followed by the Uddiyana bandha, and finally the Jalandhara bandha. Allow your body to rest before resuming another round of the Maha bandha.
Benefits of Maha Bandha
The Maha bandha combines the benefits of all three bandhas and helps the overall physical and mental health.
- The Maha bandha channels the flow of natural energies through the nerves and muscles, thereby improving their functions.
- The endocrine system responds very well to the Maha bandha, which regulates the circulation of all hormones.
- The Maha bandha acts like an antioxidant and delays premature aging of the body tissue.
- The mind assumes a state of tranquility and bliss with the regular practice of the Maha bandha.
Yogis and spiritual men who lived in the ancient era were well versed in various complex Yoga techniques. They used their knowledge and power to attain a higher plane of spiritual wellbeing. Yogic literature claims that a spiritually awakened person can achieve all their desires with the regular practice of the Maha bandha.
The pada bandha (feet lock) and the hasta bandha (hand lock) are the minor bandhas of Yoga. Their health benefits and utility are at par with the significant Yoga bandhas.
5. Hasta Bandha
- Seat yourself in a comfortable position on the floor or a chair.
- Fold your hands in prayer, tilt your fingers forward, and bring the base of your palms close to your chest.
- Gradually press the fingers towards one another without applying pressure on the palms.
- Increase the pressure steadily till your palms are no longer touching one another and fingers of both hands are entirely touching one another.
- Alternately you may also perform the hasta bandha by putting your hands on the floor and pressing your fingers hard. Try to increase the force by balancing your body weight on your fingers.
- Relax your hands before repeating a few more rounds of the hasta bandha.
Benefits of Hasta Bandha
- Practice the hasta bandha for more muscular forearms and robust shoulder muscles
- The hasta bandha has a therapeutic effect on wrist injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Regular practice of the hasta bandha brings about a balance between mental, physical, and spiritual health.
The hasta bandha is a part of many Yoga postures such as Adho Mukha Svanasana, Bhujangasana, and Suryanamaskar.
6. Pada Bandha
The pada bandha, a foot lock, is an excellent technique for learning body weight balancing.
- Stand with your feet spread wide apart so that they form a triangle with the ground.
- Shift your body weight on the inner side of your feet and your big toes by pressing the feet down.
- Keep the inner edge of both feet on the ground while repeatedly elevating and lowering the toes.
- You will feel your body weight balancing itself evenly on the feet and toes.
- Continue to remain in this position for some time before relaxing your body.
The pada bandha is an integral part of various Yoga postures you will practice in your Yoga class.
Benefits Of Pada Bandha
- Practicing the pada bandha is an excellent way to alleviate symptoms of malformed foot arches.
- The pada bandha strengthens the shin, calf muscles, and thigh muscles.
- The pada bandha is a great way to build mental strength and battle anxiety and depression.
The bandhas are a great way to nurture and improve mental and physical health. Almost all the bandhas are crucial parts of various Yoga postures, and we perform them more often than we realize. The bandhas are lesser known, and lesser appreciated part of Yoga that offer excellent health benefits.
Do’s and Don’ts Of Bandhas
A different set of rules govern the Yoga bandhas than those that apply to the practice of Yoga postures. The bandhas require the practitioner to have a certain level of physical fitness and overall wellbeing. Below are some necessary restrictions that people must remember while practicing the bandhas.
- Pregnant women are strictly advised not to perform any Yogic bandha.
- One must not contract any muscles more than required or for a prolonged time while practicing the bandhas.
- Practicing the bandhas on an empty stomach is advisable to prevent digestive troubles.
- Do not hold your breath for longer than required while performing the bandhas.
- Seek immediate medical help if you experience chest pain, breathlessness, or other difficulties while practicing the bandhas.
- Do not attempt to learn the bandhas independently without the guidance of a certified Yoga trainer.
- Do not practice the bandhas if you are diagnosed with a chronic illness and are on medication for the same.
The bandhas are simple techniques that do not require a lot of time. However, their effects are strong and subtle, reflecting on the overall well-being. You may need to activate the bandhas while practicing Yoga postures also. The bandhas stimulate the various chakras in the body and activate dormant energy bundles present across multiple points in the body.
The Yogic bandhas are excellent techniques that improve the quality of life and positively impact people’s health and wellbeing.